3 Months a Vegan

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A vegan offering from an Argentine winemaker. Highly recommended.

This is follow up to my “3 Weeks a Vegan” post. I am happy to report that I am still a vegan, or more accurately, still following a vegan diet. No intentional lapses. No dairy, no meat. I have eaten lots of beans, greens, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, as one might expect, and I occasionally consume pickles, sauerkraut, Kombucha, peanut butter, tofu, beer, and wine. I’ve cut out sweets for the most part, although I just finished a four bag marathon of Jolly Rancher jelly beans that happen to be vegan.  Most jelly bean makers use animal ingredients, like beeswax, and confectioners glaze (shallac) which consists of bug secretions to give the bean its sheen.

I feel reasonable healthy, lost and have keep off about 5 pounds, and have at least as much energy as before, maybe more although I’ve become lazy during the pandemic.  Because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the shelter in place order in my city, I have had to cancel my physical examination, so I haven’t yet had any blood tests that would determine whether my diet has conferred any health benefits. If my numbers suck, I’d consider returning to my old diet. What’s the first dish I’d have? Bacon and eggs. I really miss bacon.

What else do I miss? One of the most difficult challenges for me has been the dairy prohibition. I love cheese, Kefir, yogurt, eggs, milk, and butter. Imagine not being able to put sour cream and butter inside a piping hot baked potato. And while I miss these ingredients, I have kept my sanity and found decent plant-based substitutes. At the 3 week mark, I was struggling to find a suitable non-dairy creamer for my morning coffee. Fortunately, I have found two excellent vegan products that I can recommend without hesitation: Nut Pods and Califia. It took a while to get used to having coffee without the 2% milk I had been accustomed to, but now that my taste buds have adjusted to almond and coconut-based creamers, I find morning coffee once again to be an enjoyable experience.

So what do I eat? What’s a typical meal? A salad for starters. I like mine with mixed greens, sweet onions, radishes, green and red peppers, green olives, tomatoes, and Italian dressing. Main dishes have included pasta with red sauce, beans and rice, burritos, tacos, chili, eggplant dishes, Indian, Thai, vegetable stir fry, veggie burgers and tofu hotdogs, vegan frozen pizzas, and a variety of soups. Sides have been too numerous to mention but my favorites include baked potatoes, peas with tomato relish, corn on the cob with cashew-based butter, hush puppies, tater tots, french fries, rice, okra, spinach, grilled brussel sprouts, and onions, basically, most of the sides I used to have with meat.

One challenge remains. Wine. Many winemakers use fining agents from animal proteins found in eggs, milk, and fish to help clarify the wine. There aren’t labeling requirements regarding the use of fining agents, but some winemakers indicate if the wine is unfiltered, in which case it would be vegan friendly.  I have found some organic wines that are labeled vegan but not many, and the quality of the wines vary.  So for now, I am just buying varietals that I like in hopes that the wines are not filtered or that the fining agents used are clay-based.

I’ll post an update in 3 months.

3 Weeks a Vegan

I’ve been a meat eater all my life.  A carnivore’s carnivore.  I once went on an all-meat diet and took desiccated liver supplements to maximize my protein intake.  That was a long time ago.  I’ve been eating more sensibly since and have started following a vegan diet. I did it not so much for health reasons or ethical reasons but because my daughter challenged me.  Once I accepted the challenge, I began to think about the many dietary changes I needed to make and I had to convince myself that it was in my best interests to eat healthy.  I figured I’d add a few years to my lifespan, maybe even become immortal, if not immortal, at least help to keep the planet alive longer by reducing my carbon footprint. I have not been able to convince myself that eating meat is cruel to animals or a savage practice.  It would be quite hypocritical of me to adopt that stance after so many years of eating meat and fishing.

After three weeks of not eating any meat or dairy and getting all my nutrition from plants, I can say that I feel pretty good.  I have the same amount of energy, perhaps even more than before.  I’m snacking way less and consuming fewer calories and losing weight – not that I need to – about 6 pounds so far.  After I eat a vegan meal, I generally feel quite satisfied, but never stuffed.  I also find that I don’t have as much of a lingering aftertaste like I did after eating meat and dairy.  Though there is one issue that has almost been a deal breaker – not being able to put milk in my morning coffee.  I have never liked non-dairy creamers or any kind of cream for that matter. The only thing I like in coffee is 2% organic milk.  Now I’m stuck with coconut/almond creamer that really takes the fun and taste out of coffee.  Soy is better but it irritates my throat.  I’m getting used to almond milk though.  And it does seem to fare reasonably well in lattes as a replacement for milk.

I have also begun taking B12 and D3 supplements and probiotics to fight off deficiencies.   I go for a physical in March and if my blood work is stellar, I’ll stay on the vegan diet for as long as I can.  If there are no changes or negative changes to my health as measured by blood tests, I’ll ditch the vegan diet in favor of a vegetarian one but limit my dairy.  We’ll see.

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Creamer-Fed Cows

From the very opinionated desk of Ribbie’s Weblog

I was scanning my Facebook Newsfeed and ran across an article that could have been from The Onion.  And holy cow, dairy cows are now being fed coffee creamer to make their milk taste better!  This is one of the most absurd ideas I have ever heard and I am astonished that this practice even exists.

If there’s one thing I dislike more than skim milk, it would be coffee creamer, particularly that flammable non-dairy creamer powder.  In my opinion, it tastes nothing like cow’s milk and in coffee, what a disaster.  The petroleum like substance overpowers the flavor of the coffee and leaves a terrible aftertaste that lingers on the palate for months.  Why even go there when you could add real milk to your coffee? The common answer to this I suppose is convenience.  You don’t have to refrigerate non-dairy creamer because of the preservative qualities of its chemicals.  Just pour and store like you would a salt shaker. Half and Half isn’t much better in my opinion because it’s not clear what the halves are – is it half disodium phosphate and sodium citrate and half milk and cream?  Anyway, the creamer in the convenient polluting cups probably has a half life of about 24,000 years.

Mad Cows

“All I wanted was some grass, man, and he wouldn’t give it to me!”

And why on god’s green earth would dairy farmers feed their cows this toxic brew of powder? The Iowa farmer who favors this practice says it makes the cows’ milk taste better? Really? I suppose if you like creamer in your milk.  It simply makes no sense in an age when consumers, like me, increasingly demand organic milk from grass-fed cows.  With the movement toward truth in labeling, farmers should be required to stamp across the carton of milk, Coffee Creamer-Fed Cows.  Poor cows.  All they wanted was some grass, man, and one Iowa farmer wouldn’t give it to them.

Finger Lakes in the Winter

 

 

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Why would anyone go to lake country in the winter?  What could one do on a freezing cold lake in the dead of winter in Central New York? Not much, not even ice fishing and ice skating because the 11 finger lakes that dot the landscape between Buffalo and Syracuse generally do not freeze in winter. Waterskiing would be challenging in the cold although with the right wet suit, I imagine it’s possible, though silly to ponder. And yet people tour these lakes in the winter nonetheless for one thing and one thing only, WINE.  With some 130 wineries mainly around 4 lakes: Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga and Canandaigua, the Finger Lakes are the 3rd largest wine producing area in the country.  Known for grapes that grow well in cool climates, the Finger Lakes region generates some of the best Rieslings wines in the world and increasingly some of the better examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc found anywhere.

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On a recent visit to the Finger Lakes, my wife and I sampled and bought wines from 8 wineries on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.  2016 and 2017 vintages are outstanding, particularly the Rieslings and Cabernet Francs which we purchased in abundance, but of course, before you buy, sample, because not all are the same, and there is a wild variability in the Cabernet Francs and other reds from vineyard to vineyard in my experience.  The same can be said for the Rieslings, but to tell the truth, almost all of the dry Rieslings I sampled, I liked, so fresh and balanced, a little zesty acidic zing with just a hint of sugar and a clean mineral finish; a few really stood out – Wagner, Lamoreaux Landing, and Boundary Breaks come to mind.  I don’t care much for the sweeter Rieslings but if you do, there are many to be had.  Some odd Whites that we sampled and snatched up are worth mentioning and they include Wagner’s Fathom 107, a blend of Riesling and Gewürztraminer and Fulkerson’s Matinee made from the hybrid Himrod grape. The Red standouts that I sampled came from Sheldrake Point on Cayuga Lake for Cabernet Franc, Glenora for an unoaked Cabernet Franc, Wagner for its Meritage, Merlot and Pinot Noir Reserve, and Heart and Hands also on Cayuga Lake for its Pinot Noir.

Winter is a great time to visit the magical Finger Lakes.  The tasting lines at the wineries are short, and the views around the lakes are breathtaking with very little traffic to contend with. It feels like the lakes and the vineyards are there just for me, and me only.

Cheers!

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Heavy Metal Dogs

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I ran across a disturbing article that got me thinking about food safety.  Trump’s plan to gut most of the regulatory agencies including the FDA puts corporate profits ahead of the interests of the people.  Fortunately, one hot dog maker recalled something like 200,000 pounds of franks after alert consumers found metal in some of the weenies.  There is no report on which metals were found, whether heavy, precious or rare earth elements, but I can assure this, metal won’t easily melt when boiled, broiled or grilled.  It would not have been the intent of the makers of Nathan’s Hot Dogs to provide the consumer a bit of crunch or a metallic aftertaste.  But what would stop an unregulated company from using whatever meat could be procured cheaply, say, horse, dog, chipmunk, squirrel, possum, house sparrow, cat, or rat? For that matter, might we one day find recycled cell phone parts in our hot dogs in the form of rare earth metals that make the meat look fresher and last longer sporting a half-life shelf life of nearly a thousand years? Imagine a heavy metal dog with an expiration date of 2112 guaranteed to produce noble gases.

Top 10 Reasons to Vote Against Trump

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10.  Trump is a serial liar.  I’m not even sure he knows he lies as much as he does.  It’s as if he only has a short-term memory and a very tiny and selective long-term memory.  He seems to remember only slights and compliments.  He said he was against the Iraq war but is on record as saying he was for it.  He says he never met the disabled journalist he mocked at one of his rallies and yet the said journalist had interviewed him multiple times.  He said he respects women but is on record as saying he doesn’t and his actions and comments suggest otherwise.  He said his taxes are under audit, but has provided no proof that they are.  He and his surrogates have said he has given hundreds of thousands of his own money to his foundation but there is no proof that this is true.  He said Hillary Clinton is under investigation by the FBI and she technically is not. He said she is going to lock her up when he is elected and he can’t.  This is something done by Fascist regimes, not in a Democracy. He said he’s going to bring back jobs to America but leaves out that his own businesses manufacture outside the U.S. and buy products made in other countries that are also made in the U.S.  He said he met Putin, then said he doesn’t know Putin.  He has told so many lies and distorted the truth so many times about Hillary Clinton’s record that I’ve lost count.  Fact checkers reveal that Trump routinely lied during the debates and continues to do so at his rallies.  Trump says he is a great businessman, yet his companies have filed bankruptcy papers 6 times.  And amid fraud claims, Trump University folded.

9.  Trump might govern as an authoritarian dictator. He was inspired by a quote from a notable fascist, Benito Mussolini  which reads, “better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep,” and has praised Vladimir Putin repeatedly for being a strong man and for complimenting him for being “brilliant” which turned out to be a bad translation.  Putin himself clarified that he meant Trump is colorful or flamboyant, not brilliant.  Putin salivates at the prospects of using Trump as a puppet, which he seems to be doing to influence U.S. elections. Trump even went so far as to encourage the Russians to hack the missing 33,000 emails. This is outrageous – encouraging a foreign country to commit espionage on the U.S. and some would consider treasonous. Trump prides himself on being a strong man, with large hands and once bragged of being the best baseball player to come out of New York.  His masculine pride notwithstanding, Trump has shown a shocking lack of understanding and respect for democratic principles.

8.  Trump disrepects women.  He is on record as saying he likes to kiss them and grab them because he can get away with it.  A number of women have alleged that he sexually assaulted them.  His response has been that he doesn’t know the women and that after the election he is going to sue them all.  He is also on record as saying that women who obtain abortions should be punished.

7.  Tump has made racist and bigotted comments, calling Mexicans rapists, and denouncing a Mexican American judge as being biased in a case against Trump “University.” He was slow to denounce David Duke, a former KKK grand wizard who endorsed him.  He called for a ban on Muslims entering the country and even suggested the need to close down mosques.  He has essentially blamed the entire Muslim American community in the U.S. for not rooting out the terrorists among them – as if it were their sole responsibiltiy. He has shown very little concern for the humanitarian plight of Syrian refugees and argued that the U.S. should not accept any until we establish a vetting process, which we already have.  Trump has repeatedly dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement, has insisted that blacks live in hell, which many blacks take issue with, and has called for more policing.  He called for the death penalty for the black men who were wrongly convicted and subsequently exonerated for the rape of a central park jogger. And his father’s company, of which Donald was an employee, repeatedly discriminated against blacks in their housing properties and was fined by the Justice Department for doing so. Trump has appealed to white nationalists who blame immigrants for the ills of the country by promising to build a wall that Mexico will pay for to keep them out. Additionally, white supremcists groups including the KKK have endorsed Trump because they identify with his values. And now he is calling for people to go to the inner cities and watch (code for intimidate) for voter fraud in clear violation of the consent decree that the GOP was hit with in the 80’s for committing voter intimidation in New Jersey. One of the more egregious racist actions he has taken was questioning Obama’s citizenship and thus his right to be President. Then Trump tried to partially walk it back by suggesting that it was the Clinton camp in 2008 who started it all.  He tried to suggest that the many years he pushed this crazy birther conspiracy was somehow excusable because the story may not have begun with him.  And to top it off, he’s floated other consipiracy theories about whether Obama even attended Ivy schools demanding that he submit transcripts to prove he did.  This from a man who won’t even release his tax returns.

6. The Trump Foundation appears to be a fraud.  Apparently, people have contributed to the foundation and Trump has used some of this money to settle law suits and to buy a life-size portrait of himself. “Billionaire” Trump has said that he has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Foundation, but there is no evidence of this.  See David Fahrenthold’s reporting.  Not only is the Foundation fraudulent, but his business practices are suspect as evidence by the multiple contractors and small businesses who claim they were not paid for work done for Trump.  That coupled with his anti-union practices make Trump unfit to make anything about America or Americans great again.

5.  Trump refuses to release his tax returns that almost every presidential candidate in modern times has done before him, even his own running mate. He says he’s under audit and will release them after.  Nixon once released his while under audit.  There is nothing in the IRS code that prevents Trump from releasing tax returns while under audit if in fact he really is under audit.  He is obviously hiding something.  Could it be that he isn’t a billionaire?  Could it be that he has never given the charitable contributions that he said he has? Could it be that he does not pay taxes at all?  Actually, the one leaked release indicates that he did not and Trump subsequently said in a debate that the fact that he doesn’t pay taxes makes him smart.  A man who doesn’t pay taxes not because he’s poor but wealthy and privileged is a shameful man who is NOT a patriot.  Tax dollars fund education, defense, roads, entitlements, to name a few.  He is ok with YOU paying for these services and thanks YOU for paying them for him.

4.  Trump claims he is religious but is not, and apparently knows very little about religion.  Not that that religion is a test I use for a candidate, but he has shamelessly pandered to evangelicals suggesting that the Bible is his favorite book.  He does not seem to hold or practice ANY Christian values that I can detect raising doubts in my mind as to whether he has even read the Bible.

3. Trump seems to want to begin a nuclear arms raceHe has said that South Korea and Japan should have their own nuclear weapons.  He doesn’t understand why we have them if we can’t use them and has not ruled out their use in the future.  He is also on record saying that he likes war. What’s more, he has taken a pro-Russian position against NATO calling it ineffective and expensive and intimating that we should break our alliances in Europe. This is what I mean about Trump being Putin’s puppet – his Petrushka.

2.  Trump has no interest in governing.  He had even said that he would leave the buisness of governing to his running mate and simply go around the country making America great again, presumably by holding pep rallies. This is code for promoting his business brand which his children will continue to operate if he became president in an obvious conflict of interest.  He doesn’t seem to get how governing works and that he can’t just rule by decree.  He has repeatedly said that he will appoint supreme court justices without any mention of the senate’s role in the advise and consent process. Actually, the president can only nominate and there is no guarantee that the nomination will be confirmed by the senate or even get a hearing by the judiciary committee.  President Obama’s nominee, Garland, has yet to get a hearing and it has been nearly a year since Justice Antonin Scalia died leaving a vacancy on the court.

1.  His policies would simply be disatrous.  He calls for tax breaks for the rich.  He would end regulations that ensure safe food, water, drugs and air quality.  He would invest in practices that contribute to global warming which he denies is caused by humans.  He would end Obamacare resulting in millions losing health insurance. He might enact protectionist policies and start a trade war with China and Mexico.  The markets would respond disastrously and we would all lose our retirement savings and Social Security which Trump will probably have privatized.  If we are not wiped out by a nuclear war or swept away by rising ocean levels first, his policies will create a depression so deep it will make your head spin.

GMO Apple To Debut in the U.S. By 2017

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The U.S. Agriculture department just approved the first genetically altered apple for the U.S. market.  A Canadian outfit has designed, yes, DESIGNED, an apple that neither bruises nor browns when sliced open or bitten into.  I suppose it stays red and fresh for hundreds of years and has a half life of several billion, longer even than a discarded k-cup.  They reengineered the thing minus an aging protein or something of the like so that it appears fresher than it really is.  While it may not brown or bruise, it might taste just as soggy and mushy as a bruised apple would, unless they’ve managed to artificially preserve the crispness, which I admit would have a certain appeal, that is if they’ve not used something like formaldehyde.  I really don’t like soggy apples but I like the smell of formaldehyde even less.  And in my view, there is a place for soggy and brown apples and that would be in a jug of cider.

The Okanagan Specialty Fruit company that designed the GMO apple is planning to add a logo to the apple sticker in the form of a snowflake which would distinguish it from a real apple.  It’s interesting that the natural and pristine snowflake is their choice of logo for the born in the lab apple.  Maybe they are also planning to produce these apples to make Ice-Wine, which I rather like.  But is an apple even an apple, if it’s DNA has been altered? Isn’t it kind of like Froot Loops cereal?  The loops are not fruit, which is why the cereal is spelled Froot.  And like Cheez Whiz, which is the not the reel deel, the Canadian apple should be spelled to reflect its synthetic properties – say Apel or Aple or maybe Apul.  Since they designed out a protein, I think it only fitting the thing lose an l.

Say Goodbye to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and yes Crunch too

229 to Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and Crunch because Nestle, the Swiss chocolatier has decided to mess with the ingredients of the classics. I say mess with because according to an article in the Washington Post,  Nestle plans to use natural ingredients in its candy bars as opposed to the chemically laden synthetic dyes and flavors that so many of us have come to love and crave over the years.  Gone will be such iconic ingredients as Yellow 4 and Red Dye #40, that make the bars so attractive to the eye.  Never mind that Red #40 is actually named 6-hydroxy-5-[(2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid and was born in a laboratory and not in nature.  And let’s not harp on the evidence that in some studies, Red 40, as it is affectionately known, altered the DNA of mice, and is thought to have the potential to produce serious allergic reactions and even cancer in some humans.  After all, most of us will die of cancer anyway, so what’s the big deal?  

The big deal is that our candy bars are going to look natural and taste like some hipster snack food with achiote tree seeds (fairly traded from the Guatemalan rain forest no doubt) and actual vanilla. Yes, actual vanilla!  If they start using real sugar as opposed to high fructose corn syrup, which I am addicted to frankly, I may just launch a Nestle boycott.  How dare they even consider going GMO free!  This may just be a sinister ploy to regain the German market that banned the GMO laden Butterfinger.

Plot or no plot, Nestle is going after more than the big three, although I really don’t care what they do with the inedible Crunch, maybe one of the worst chocolate bars on the planet, in the same company as the foul tasting Tootsie Roll.  But get this – soon the “neutral” Swiss company will be attacking SweeTARTS.  Without all the dyes, they may soon look like communion wafers or peppermint TUMS and taste like raw agave sap.  If they go designer on us, I’m out.  I don’t want a tart made from real cherries, limes or oranges.  Kids don’t want that either, I assure you.  Real fruit is not candy.  If Nestle keeps mucking with the ingredients, they might get the Germans back, but stand to lose the entire American market.

100% GMO Corn Found in Froot Loops

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Back in the day (which would have been the early 70’s) I ate cereal for breakfast, that and cinnamon toast.  I tried the cinnamon toast cereal but never much liked it as I recall, not nearly as good as the real thing.  Back in the 70’s, cereal actually may have been more of the real thing; today, not so much, with all the genetically modified organism (GMO) grains that go into the stuff, particularly corn, whose seeds have been altered in such a way that they produce toxins to ward off insects and weeds.  As products like cereal made from GMO grains are consumed, we humans are putting ourselves at risk, but just what the risks are, we don’t yet really know because, incredibly, there haven’t been any GMO human trials.  We do know that traces of one of the toxins, Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt, produced by the altered plants, has been found in humans.  And now we know that cereals like Froot Loops are made with 100% GMO corn grains that contain small amounts of the herbicide, glyphosate.  These “new and improved” colored loops no longer conjure up images of grapes, oranges, and limes as they once did and now seem much brighter, with an unnatural radiant glow.

DSC_0306If the U.S. moves to follow the 60+ countries that require manufacturers to label their GMO food products, it may make parents steer clear of Froot Loops, which really have nothing to do with fruit, hence the misleading spelling of “Froot”. A froot is as artificial as the grain from which the cereal is made, but it sure sounds healthy.  Wouldn’t it be a little more accurate to call them Glypho Loops? It does have a certain truthful ring to it.

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Keurig Goggles

IMAG0458You’ve probably heard of the angry and vengeful Keurig coffee machine that sprays scalding water at it’s owners or unsuspecting users at car dealerships.  I’m not sure why all this pent up rage in these precision machines, but it may have to do with the dirty “rumor” that the Keurig harbors a slimy, moldy, substance in its internal resevoir that is not easy to clean.  For more on this controversy, see the the popular article circulating all over the web – Why I Kicked My Keurig to the Curb. While it may be true that the Keurig harbors bacteria, so too do most all coffee machines as this article points out. Let’s face it, we live among germs.  Germs are on practically everything we touch.  But most folks who are reasonably healthy can co-exist with them which probably includes you. I would say we’d all be better off not using germicides and other toxic chemicals to rid our daily environments of germs and such.  Why not just spray a little vinegar here and there when the spirit moves and use the surplus vinegar for a bean salad.

We have a well-behaved and relatively new and clean Keurig in our household.  I have no beef with it yet.  It gurgles and grumbles a bit but makes a good cup of coffee.  Actually, I think I am becoming addicted to k-cups and am salivating at the thought of a Columbian Peeks 8 o’clock pod.  Now the rogue machines in question that misfire are a real hazard and should be taken seriously. To Keurig’s credit, they have voluntarily recalled over 6 million of them with details here on which machines are affected and what to do if you have one. If you chose to ignore the warning, please wear goggles, press the brew button and then run like hell out of the kitchen for 45 seconds.

To be honest, after reviewing the literature, I am more concerned with the plastic k-cups from which the coffee originates.  As you know, the Keurig pierces the plastic K-cup, or pod as it’s called, and as I referenced above, that contains the ground coffee and then shoots steaming hot water through the holes it made. Within 30 seconds, out comes the coffee and with it God only knows what but indubitably some chemical compound used in the manufacturing of the pods – see the article from Mother Jones for details on what it could be and what dangers it may pose. But let’s keep a little perspective here: the residue is likely less dangerous than non-dairy creamer and a piping hot cup of Joe in a styrofoam cup.